Collaboration and the team conference
Q: My developmental pediatrician is calling for a team conference. What should I expect?
A team conference, known in other circles as a parent-teacher conference (PTC) or multidisciplinary conference, is an excellent opportunity for everyone involved in your child’s development to meet. It is called to discuss your child’s ongoing progress at home or at school, or to address concerns that don’t seem to be going away.
GATHERING THE “STAKEHOLDERS”
The composition of the intervention team, or “stakeholders,” often varies. Your team may be as small as the family, your doctor, and one or two Speech, Occupational, Behavioral, or Physical Therapists. For older children, or those with more complex issues, the team may also include your child’s school teachers, private tutors, or other co-managing doctors.
While it is best to have all the members of your team ready and present, juggling everyone’s schedules might be challenging. Please speak with your doctor as to who are important to be there, and those that can be excused. You may also need to inquire if there is a professional fee for certain attendees at the meeting. You can then work your final date and time around their availability.
THE SMALLER CONFERENCE or HOME VISIT
For smaller team conferences, a personal preference is to schedule meetings after work. This avoids conflicts such as the need for family members to call in sick just to meet, or for your doctor and therapists to reschedule or cancel other patients.
Agreeing to meet for dinner may also serve another purpose. For younger children, it’s a good opportunity to include a home visit so that everyone can observe the child in his most natural setting and meet other members of the household. The team can also see family dynamics and make recommendations regarding parent care, feeding, and other home-based activities, sibling involvement, and caregiver attitudes.
SCHOOL VISITS and LARGER MEETINGS
A bigger team conference may be requested by the school. These are usually held on school premises during official work hours. They may include your child’s class adviser, members of the family, your doctor, and individual therapists and interventionists. Some conferences may include individual subject teachers and school admin such as Guidance Counselors, or the Prefect of Discipline.
Requesting for a school visit immediately prior to or after the meeting provides the advantage of observing children in their everyday setting: how he or she interacts with their teachers, peers, and schoolmates as well as providing insight to what influences their positive and negative behaviors.
THE CONFERENCE PROPER
The conference may be chaired by a senior member of the family, the attending developmental pediatrician, or in cases of school conferences, the principal or guidance supervisor.
Gathering everyone together provides a venue where a child’s progress and management goals can be discussed and adjusted. Everyone should be informed to bring a record of the child’s progress over a set period of time. They should be ready to discuss their experiences with the child during intervention. Each conference may last roughly an hour depending on the school’s schedule. The family may negotiate how long the meeting is expected to last depending on the time of day, and number of participants.
A team conference may be held once- or twice-a-year, or at intervals set by your doctor or your
child’s school. Collaboration with all those involved is key in making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your child’s intervention and management plan.